Elbow and arm pain

Elbow and arm pain isn’t usually a sign of anything serious. If it doesn’t go away after a few weeks, see a GP.

How you can ease elbow and arm pain yourself

Try these things for a couple of days:

  • put a pack of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel on your arm - do this for 5 minutes, 3 times a day
  • take painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • raise the arm if it's swollen

See a GP if:

  • the pain doesn't go away after a few weeks

Get an urgent GP appointment if your arm:

  • hurts when you exercise but the pain goes away when you rest
  • is swollen and you have a very high temperature or feel hot and shivery

These can be signs of a heart problem (angina) or an infection.

Go to a minor injuries clinic or A&E if you've injured your arm and:

  • it's extremely painful and difficult to move
  • you have bruising and swelling
  • you have tingling and numbness
  • you heard a snap and your arm has changed shape

These could be signs of a broken arm and you need an X-ray.

Find a minor injuries walk-in clinic

Call 999 if:

  • the pain has come on suddenly and your chest feels like it’s being squeezed

These could be signs of a heart attack or stroke.

Causes of elbow and arm pain

Apart from an injury, these things can cause arm pain.

Don't self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.

Main symptoms Possible cause
Pain, stiffness, difficulty moving, swelling tendonitis, for example tennis elbow
Pain, tenderness, bruising, swelling sprains and strains
Pain, stiffness coming down from the shoulder frozen shoulder
Pain and stiffness in the joints arthritis
Temperature of 38C or above, feeling shivery, skin broken around the shoulder inflamed shoulder (bursitis)

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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